Natural Resources

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Lawmakers pitch carbon tax proposals

BARRE — A group of lawmakers plan to introduce legislation Tuesday that would tax carbon pollution and use the revenue to cut various taxes for Vermonters. Four bills were announced at news conferences Monday as part of a coordinated campaign to begin a conversation about a so-called carbon tax. Lawmakers say they plan to introduce four separate bills focused on reforming different taxes. At Capstone Community Action in Barre, Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington, said the legislation she will introduce will cut income taxes for Vermonters, small business and will double the Earned Income Tax Credit used by 43,000 low-income residents. “This bill cuts the tax rate for the bottom income bracket in half from 3.55 percent to 1.75 percent,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Rep. David Deen and ANR Secretary Julie Moore

Rep. David Deen, the chairman of the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee, and Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, join the program to discuss water quality efforts and a funding proposal put forth by Deen’s committee. Capital Beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →

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AG’s office finds no bribery in wind project proposal

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Attorney General’s office has reviewed a proposal a proposal from a wind developer to pay registered voters in the towns where they hope to build wind turbines and determined that it does not amount to a bribe. Iberdrola Renewables is looking to erect 24 turbines in the towns of Grafton and Windham in Windham county. The company recently revamped its proposal, reducing the number of wind turbines from 28 to 24, in an attempt to ease concerns in those communities. Eight turbines would remain in Grafton but Windham would see four less. The company also sweetened the financial pot of money it is offering to the towns in its revised proposal. Continue Reading →

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Dunne position on wind draws fire

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne is drawing strong criticism from environmental advocates and leaders after calling for local referendums over the siting of wind energy projects less than two weeks before the state’s Aug. 9 primary. On Friday, Dunne, a former Google employee and Windsor County state senator, distributed a press release detailing his stance on the siting of renewable energy projects. At the top of the three points listed Dunne stated that “wind projects should only take place with the approval of the towns where the projects are located.”

“As governor, I will ensure that no means no. Towns should be voting by Australian ballot, and if a town says no to a large industrial wind project I would use all the power of the Governor’s office to ensure that is the end of the project,” Dunne wrote. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers craft replacement language for vetoed energy siting bill

MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have drafted replacement language for an energy siting bill vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday they hope will be passed during a legislative veto session on Thursday to fix issues he identified in his veto message. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking a fourth two-year term, vetoed S.230 Monday over concerns that language approved on the final day of the legislative session would have unintended consequences. He said the emergency rule-making process called for in the bill for new wind turbine sound standards unintentionally invokes a provision in statute that would make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy “without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up.”

Additionally, Shumlin said new temporary sound standards for wind turbines “unintentionally relies on a standard used in a small 150 kilowatt project as the standard for all wind” projects, which “could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher.” Another provision in the bill requires notice of certificates of public good for energy projects on parcels of land to be filed with land records. He said that “could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.”

The fourth concern deals with money. Under the bill, regional planning commissions are supposed to help municipalities develop local energy plans that conform to the state’s energy goals. Continue Reading →

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Potential dam purchase gets bipartisan support

MONTPELIER — State officials are mobilizing to explore the potential purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, but plenty of obstacles remain in the way to complete a purchase the state passed on just over a decade ago. TransCanada put the 13 dams on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. The move has prompted a bipartisan group of state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, to express interest in purchasing the dams through a state-owned power authority. A similar effort under former Gov. Jim Douglas was made in 2005, but TransCanada outbid the state with its $505 million offer. Continue Reading →

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Snelling resigns from Senate to head Natural Resources Board

MONTPELIER — Chittenden County Republican Sen. Diane Snelling is resigning from the body to become chairwoman of the Natural Resources Board, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Tuesday morning. Snelling, who has served in the Senate since being appointed in 2002 to replace a seat vacated by her mother, will replace Jon Groveman on the board. “I am proud to appoint Senator Snelling to this position,” Shumlin said. “Her deep policy knowledge of Act 250 as well as her well-deserved reputation for being thoughtful and non-partisan make her an ideal candidate for this position.”

Snelling’s work in the Senate has involved work on clean water initiatives and shore land protection. She has served on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Continue Reading →

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State’s PFOA response praised as officials focus on long-term solutions

MONTPELIER — Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren was preparing to testify in front of a Senate Committee on the morning of Feb. 25 when news of drinking water contamination in North Bennington was delivered, kicking off an all-out effort by her department and the governor’s office to address an alarming situation. “I was just about to go down and testify in Senate Natural Resources and Energy … and we had 10 minutes until we were going to catch the bus. The division director … comes running in, he opens the door, he’s red-faced, he sits down and he says, ‘We have the test results back from Bennington,’” Schuren said in an interview at DEC’s main office. “I immediately feel myself just sit up straighter, because you could tell by his face that this was not going to be good news.”

The news was not good. Continue Reading →

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Experts debate carbon tax in Vermont

MONTPELIER — Can 600,000 Vermonters slow the effects of climate change? That was the essential question posed Thursday night before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 during a debate on the merits of imposing a tax on carbon emissions. During the upcoming legislative session that begins in January, lawmakers are expected to discuss a pair of carbon tax proposals offered by Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, and Rep. David Deen, D-Putney. Thursday’s discussion was set against the backdrop of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where, next week, Gov. Peter Shumlin will discuss Vermont’s efforts to curb carbon emissions and encourage the creation of renewable energy. Speaking in favor of a carbon tax were Paul Burns, of the Vermont Public Interest Research Interest Group, and Jon Erickson, an economist and a fellow with the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute. Continue Reading →

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Welch responds to attack ad

BARRE — Congressman Peter Welch responding is to a television ad attacking him for his stance on ethanol in gasoline. This weekend, local television stations in Vermont aired an ad from ethanol-advocacy group known as Fuels America, which attacks Welch for being signatory to a letter to Environmental Protection Agency questioning whether the percentage of ethanol in gasoline should be increased. The ad criticizes Welch for “circulating a plan written by oil industry lobbyists” and concludes by asking viewers to “remind Peter Welch to stand up for Vermont values, not oil companies and climate deniers.”

“I understand why they’re doing it,” Welch said of the ad. “The mandate is a moneymaker for the corn ethanol industry.”

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates an ever-increasing volume of ethanol to enter the nation’s motor vehicle fuel supply. At the time, the Energy Information Administration projected demand for gasoline would continue to rise through 2022. Continue Reading →

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